By Thomas Lange, Contributing Writer
Back from a short hiatus since their 2015 EP “Link Up & Suede,” duo NxWorries, a collaboration between rapper/singer Anderson .Paak and producer Knxwledge, return with their debut 19-track album, “Yes Lawd!” Both .Paak and Knxwledge are legends in the underground hip-hop community and some of the most exciting artists in the industry at the moment. .Paak himself has gained minor fame in the past few years for notable features on projects from Dr. Dre, Mac Miller and Domo Genesis, to name a few.
Together with .Paak’s smooth blend of rap, funk, R&B, jazz and soul and Knxwledge’s diverse, heavily experimental beat tapes, the two are bringing a fresh new sound to the hip-hop scene and offering an incredibly unique listening experience. Both artists are pushing the limits of their respective genres, to the point where it feels limiting to pigeon-hole them into the hip-hop category. With these thoughts in mind, the anticipation for this album is quite understandable, and the disappointment surrounding the execution of this album is as well.
The biggest disappointment is the fact that this album is a very safe, clean project; a far shot from the crazy experimentality that many fans were probably expecting, given the styles of both artists. The problem lies mostly in the production. Throughout the project, Knxwledge very rarely flexes his production muscles, choosing instead to stick with fairly simple, jazz-influenced beats. The sound pairs very well with .Paak’s beautiful, laid-back crooning, but also leaves much to be desired.
Songs like “Suede,” “Get Bigger / Do U Luv,” “Scared Money” and “Link Up” are some of the only places on the album where it feels like Knxwledge is performing close to his full potential. The interlude, “Can’t Stop,” is a perfect example of what this album could be, but .Paak isn’t even on the track; it’s simply a beat.
.Paak, as always, provides a wonderful blend of rapping and singing, showcasing his smooth flow and wordplay, as well as his expressive voice. His vocal skills are used to talk about anything from love to a car (an Oldsmobile Cutlass, to be exact) to the people who try and get him to look at their projects on “H.A.N.” It’s somewhat disenfranchising to see someone like .Paak, who is by no means a staple in the mainstream consciousness, rapping about how he doesn’t “give a fuck about your job, give a fuck about your blog,” essentially dismissing any and all people who try and come to him to promote their work (and to make matters worse, the song isn’t even that good).
As a whole, this album feels less like a collaboration between two unique artists, and more like a reiteration of a sound that .Paak could’ve achieved with a range of other producers. Now, this in and of itself is not something to complain about, because everything that .Paak has put out to date has been wonderful, and this is no exception. The album is incredibly smooth and laid-back, with the tracks transitioning seamlessly from one to the other to form a beautifully cohesive project. However, the potential that comes from a collaboration like this is, for the most part, wasted on this album. Objectively speaking, this is an beautiful project, but the listener will likely be left wanting more.